First Solar has unveiled two new module series which it expects to launch over the next three years. The company plans to begin commercial production of its Series 5 modules next year, and in 2019 to begin production of a large-format Series 6 modules.??
First Solar is currently producing the second version of its Series 4 modules, with average line efficiencies around 16.3-16.4%. Due to the small size of these modules at 60 cm x 120 cm, they offer watt ratings of only 110-117.5 watts.
This 60 cm format is dictated by First Solars existing tools, and the company has kept this size of module throughout its commercial manufacturing. However, First Solar notes that this unusual size requires that it utilize its own custom mounting and racking solutions.
This issue is addressed in the Series 5, which will include three 60 x 120 cm modules bound together on two common steel rails. First Solar says that this will allow it to utilize standard mounting, racking and tracking solutions.
The company plans to convert its existing manufacturing in the U.S. state of Ohio and Malaysia to produce the Series 5 beginning in 2017, by adding the rail assembly on the end of its current process. With three 125 watt modules, the total output of the Series 5 bill be 375 watts, and the combined area will be larger than a typical crystalline silicon PV module.
A further evolution on the large-format design is planned with the Series 6, which First Solar expects to begin producing in 2019. The series 6 will be one solid module 120 x 180 cm, with an expected output of over 400 watts.
For the Series 6, the company will need to buy new tools to accommodate the larger format. First Solar has stated that it intends to add these as new manufacturing capacity, instead of replacing existing lines, and will continue to produce Series 4 and 5 modules even while it ramps Series 6 production.